Rasheed Araeen: Arctic Circle 1982–88

This new presentation of Rasheed Araeen’s seminal work Arctic Circle, 1982-88 was originally conceived and exhibited as part of the artist’s solo exhibition When The Innocent Begins To Walk The Earth at The Showroom from October 26th to November 20th 1988.

Rasheed Araeen was commissioned by David Thorp, The Showroom’s first director, in 1988 at a time when he was growing in prominence as a radical and experimental artist. The exhibition coincided with a touring retrospective of his work organised by Ikon, then showing at John Hansard Gallery, Southampton. After 25 years of working in Britain, Araeen’s work was finally gaining the recognition it deserved.

Arctic Circle, 1982-88, was one of two site-specific sculptures for The Showroom’s unique space located at 44 Bonner Road, the other being A White Line Through Africa, 1982-1988, which both appropriated the formal language of artist Richard Long. In this work, Araeen directly refers to Long’s A Circle in Alaska, 1977, as an appropriation, also described in a review published in Art Monthly as a ‘romantic reclaim of nature amidst industrialisation’, whilst expanding his analysis to Western modernism.

The work consists of used wine, beer and other alcohol bottles arranged in a geometrically precise 10-foot circle on the gallery floor. It references the problem of alcoholism within Inuit culture as a result of Western intervention, providing a broader commentary on the destruction resulting from consumer culture. Both works articulate a powerful critique of the colonial and racist ideologies underpinning British Minimalism and Western society at large. Coincidentally, Araeen’s exhibition in 1988 took place simultaneously with an exhibition of Long’s work at Anthony d’Offay Gallery, allowing audiences to consider both artists’ work first-hand.

‘Long’s vision in which the world is stripped of human presence is a world, Araeen maintains, in which the heroic and romantic (white) figure of the artist can walk, uninvited and undisturbed, claiming it for himself and for art. This unintentional thoughtlessness pinpoints the arrogance implicit in Western culture, and it is this arrogance that Araeen is challenging in these works. Not by singling out Long for a personal attack, but by developing his own strategy to exploit the forms of Western Modernity and continue his critique of its
shortcomings.’ David Thorp, 1988.

The Showroom is hugely grateful to Rasheed Araeen for this very generous gift.

The exhibition is now closed. For further information about the work please contact the gallery

With thanks to Rasheed Araeen Studio, Vanya Catone, Majella Dowdican, Jack Felgate, Grosvenor Gallery, Corie McGowan and Clare Rees-Hales.


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